Focal Point Reviews vs. the Anniversary Date Appraisal

Posted by Julie • July 11, 2017 (Last modified August 23, 2018) • 4 min read

The dawn of the 21st century saw a new employee performance evaluation process begin to take hold in organizations across the country. What was once a commonly accepted practice, anniversary date appraisals are being traded not only for the use of focal point reviews, but for the philosophy behind them.


Anniversary Date Performance Appraisals

The popularity of anniversary date appraisals was propelled by the belief that performance appraisal was an interruption to the normal workflow of managers in an organization. In order to avoid massive amounts of downtime that would be associated with annual performance reviews, many companies began adopting an anniversary date schedule that coincided with each individual’s date of hire. In theory, managers could then devote individual to each individual subordinate in an effort to determine areas of excellence, opportunities for improvement and chances for advancement within the organization. Rather than being inundated with annual reviews at the end of the fiscal year, managers would be able to address performance appraisals as a part of their regular work flow.

The reality of anniversary date appraisals was actually much different than the theory behind them. Like everyone within an organization, managers would often become absorbed in immediate tasks and often overlook appraisals that should have been completed weeks or months before. Those hired in the first or fourth quarters, which are notoriously busy times in organizations, often received a performance appraisal as an afterthought rather than a personal and professional developmental process. Ultimately, human resource managers spent too much time reminding managers of their appraisal schedule and not enough time in the strategic management of performance.

In short anniversary date appraisals have the following limitations.

  • They are difficult to manage as an employee’s role changes from one manager or department to another.
  • The performance appraisal process never comes to a conclusion, making it difficult for human resource managers to roll out a new method or system.
  • Organizational data and analytics with respect to employee performance are never accurate.
  • Bonuses, promotions or compensation allocations may not be equally allotted to accommodate the cyclical nature of a company’s income.
  • The manager is constantly evaluating individual performance rather than that of the department as a whole.
  • It is difficult to complete the process on time.

Focal Date Appraisals

Although the idea of performing an entire department’s performance appraisals at once may be daunting at best, focal date appraisals are a part of a larger shift in the focus of performance management. Rather than using the anniversary date performance review as the only chance to discuss long-term strategic development, organizations are using focal date reviews as a check-in point to a larger strategic system. Ideally, managers should be having regular informal conversations with their employees about strategic goal setting, performance obstacles and management support. With this in mind, focal date appraisals are merely the icing on the performance management cake. A time to write down annual goals for the coming year and touch base on anything the manager and employee may have missed, this streamlined process actually allows managers to spend less time conducting formal appraisals and more time accomplishing their own goals and objectives.

As more and more organizations adopt focal date appraisals, they are noticing a dynamic shift in how the entire organization thinks about performance. While the first and fourth quarters are generally busy for managers who must schedule individual performance meetings and turn in appraisal paperwork, the remainder of the year can be spent in accomplishing individual, department and organizational goals. As a result, teamwork can be rewarded with compensation allocations and recognition on a regular basis rather than focusing exclusively on individual performance throughout the year.

Other notable advantages of focal point employee performance evaluation includes:

  • Employee success can be evaluated in light of overall organizational success.
  • There is less administration time from HR throughout the year.
  • Corporate-wide organizational goals can be established and communicated to allow everyone to align their department and individual goals in performance reviews.
  • Data and analytics that result from employee performance are accurate due to a company-wide push for appraisal completion.
  • As soon as the performance appraisal process is complete, work can begin on succession planning and career development plans for top performers.


Best of all, performance review software, like Trakstar, allows company-wide focal point reviews to proceed seamlessly as organizational goals are effectively communicated, individual goals are set, and an individual’s annual performance is evaluated. Let Trakstar streamline your performance appraisal process.

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